By Bob Russell
An exhausted minister who was on the verge of retirement was asked what he was going to do with his extra time. He quipped, “The first year I’m just going to sit on the front porch in a rocking chair.”
“Then what?” he was asked.
“Then the second year I’m going to start rocking.”
If that’s your concept of retirement, you’re going to be miserable in the final chapter of your life because there’s a direct correlation between your sense of purpose and your self-worth. If you have nothing significant to do, your lack of purpose will drag you into a pit of despair.
Plenty to Do
Ten years ago I retired from a 40-year ministry at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. I was 62 years old and in good health. I didn’t want to sit in a rocking chair all day. I still planned to be active in Christian service. I can’t imagine the boredom of waking up with nothing significant to do. Someone said people don’t die of old age . . . they die of retirement!
Thankfully I have had plenty to do every day. I sponsor monthly mentoring retreats for pastors, preach all over the country about 40 Sundays a year, conduct leadership seminars, counsel with young preachers, write a weekly blog, and have written two books. One of my retirement goals was to do another small group Bible study (the book of Acts), but I have not as yet found time to do so. I can honestly say the past decade has been the most enjoyable and the most rewarding period of my life.
Retirement should be regarded as a season of service, not an opportunity for self-indulgence. That means people ought to retire “to” something not “from” something.
A 78-year-old retired minister I know just moved from central Florida to Grayson, Kentucky. That sounds like the reverse of what most people would do. But after several months of boredom in Florida, he decided to move near Kentucky Christian University, his alma mater, so he could serve as a volunteer and have something to do. He and his wife are now very active and happy. And the college administrators are delighted to have him available—for free!
Sense of Purpose
The Bible is full of examples of people who made their most significant contributions after age 65. Moses was 80 when he led the Israelites out of slavery. Caleb was 85 when he led the Hebrew army into battle. Sarah was 90 when she gave birth to Isaac. Anna was 84 when she identified the baby Jesus as the Messiah. The apostle John was over 80 when he wrote the book of Revelation.
Sam Rosenberg was still playing the trombone in our church orchestra at 94 years of age. He once told me, “I must be a crazy old man; I’m 90 years old and just bought a new trombone!” His doctor said that’s probably why he lived so long and was so healthy. He exercised his lungs and had a sense of purpose.
John Piper considered a number of historical figures who began new assignments at advanced ages. Then he concluded this about retirement: “So, all you boomers just breaking into Medicare, gird up your loins, pick up your cane, head for the gym, and get fit for the last lap. Fix your eyes on the Face at the finish line. There will plenty of time for R and R in the resurrection. For now, there is happy work to be done.”
Well said. Jesus said it even better when he challenged: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Revelation 2:10).
[Adapted from Bob’s book After 50 Years of Ministry: 7 Things I’d Do Differently & 7 Things I’d Do The Same.]
Bob Russell is the retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Copyright 2015 by Bob Russell. Permission to copy this column may be obtained by writing Debbie Carper, Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40243. Find Bob’s books and sermons online (www.livingword.org).